With the Bruins announcing their Development Camp roster, we’re taking a look at some of the prospects who will be attending this year's practices. After breaking down defenseman Matt Grzelcyk yesterday, today, we travel up Comm. Ave. to focus on Boston College’s Ryan Fitzgerald.
Ryan Fitzgerald may not have been the most visible forward on Chestnut Hill last season, but that was hardly his fault. Playing on a roster with seven NHL forwards (including himself), behind the likes of Hobey Baker winner Johnny Gaudreau and some of BC’s other top-tier guys, it probably says more about Fitzgerald that he didn’t miss a beat.
A local product out of North Reading, Fitzgerald hopped right into the action for one of the top programs in all of college hockey and was a difference maker. In the early parts of the season, he played next to Kevin Hayes, the second-leading point scorer in the nation just a year ago. But Fitzgerald showed no signs of nerves of freshman-jitters, using his quick hands and creativity on the puck to be effective.
Later in the season when the Eagles really found their groove, head coach Jerry York juggled his lines, putting Fitzgerald with senior captain Patrick Brown, and fellow first-year Austin Cangelosi. In that role, the 2013 fourth round pick was able to produce good secondary scoring, notching 13 goals and 16 assists in 40 games played.
Fitzgerald also proved he’s not afraid of big moments. With BC’s season on the line in an NCAA regional final against conference foe UMass Lowell, the freshman scored a highlight reel goal early in the third period to pull the Eagles even. Fitzgerald knifed through the defense before flipping the puck onto his backhand and stuffing it past the River Hawks goalie. Boston College would go on to win the game and advance to the Frozen Four.
It could be a sign of things to come for the 19-year-old.
Returning for his sophomore season under York, Fitzgerald will be called upon to play a much bigger role for the 2014-15 Eagles. With the likes of Gaudreau and three other NHL forwards gone, even with a strong recruiting class, Fitzgerald will be much more in the picture in his second year.
For the 15th-leading freshman scorer in the nation, more responsibilities shouldn’t be a problem. Fitzgerald is a highly-skilled player who can beat his opponents in a number of ways.
The development task currently for Fitzgerald is what it is for many college players: get bigger, faster, stronger (very important for the smaller Fitzgerald), and more accountable in all three zones.
York helped the aforementioned Gaudreau get better in the defensive zone, an area in which Fitzgerald needs to improve. Last year, playing next to Brown, perhaps the best two-way player in all of college hockey, Fitzgerald had an anchor to lean on. This year, however, he’ll more than likely have to shoulder a greater defensive load, meaning more chances to grow in that area of his game.
And if Fitzgerald is looking for an environment to grow as an undersized forward, he’s in the right place at Kelley Rink. Smaller Eagle forwards before him like Gaudreau (5-foot-8), Nathan Gerbe (5-foot-5), and Brian Gionta (5-foot-7) are all success stories to have come through York’ program. At 5-foot-9, Fitzgerald doesn’t tower above any of those BC-turned-NHL players, but is a bit taller, and certainly dangerous when the puck is on his stick.
College hockey players often take three years to make a big jump in development. With a bigger role in Boston College’s offensive game plan, Fitzgerald could make that leap this season, and is certainly in a good place to mature at Conte Forum.